THE WOMAN IN THE TRAIN – PART 1
ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
The young man drops in often to see us. He says he feels comfortable and I like his company. I have seen him trying to put together the pieces of his life and go ahead. I do think that he is in a new relationship now. I have not asked him and he has not told me. But it is good, for that is how it should be. One does notice small things, the glint in the eyes and a confidence in his stride.
The old man has always occupied my thoughts since the day I first met him. I have relished these encounters for they reveal the strength and fragility of relationships. It is not fair on my part to still dwell on the good old days when I thought relationships were made for life. That is not the entire truth. Looking back, I suspect a number of them did last as there was no other option. But whether then or now it has always been the absence of empathy; insensitivity on the part of one and a weakness on the part of the other to recognize emotional and physical needs of each other that has been the reason for conflicts in a relationship. Yes perhaps it is a better choice to break away rather than suffer in silence and in that sense it is an emancipated world now.
The grieving old man, or the confused young man represent the two aspects in a relationship - strength and fragility; the former a life long commitment of love and respect and the second a reluctance to commit and what could be termed as a search for an ideal relationship. It is not for me to judge, for ultimately each person makes his own life and whether he is happy or not he is the best judge. I can only say that I am happy the way I am.
These chance encounters as I prefer to call them have helped me towards a deeper understanding and an enhanced level of acceptance of the true emotions that define the reality of relationships. These seem to be occurring at frequent intervals or may be it is because now I have learned to listen to other people and they find me receptive enough to their sensibilities.
It was perhaps six months after my tryst with the young man that I once again had what you could call a very meaningful encounter. It was with the woman in the train She occupied the seat next to mine; a woman in her late thirties. I was returning from
to Chennai after attending a wedding. As the train started and slowly picked up
speed she turned to me and inquired whether I live in Chennai. I replied “Yes,
what about you?” she replied that she also lived in Chennai and had come to Bangalore to meet her son
who was studying there. Bangalore
“So what do you do?” I asked. She told me that she headed the marketing division in a multinational firm.
“Where does your husband work?” I asked.
“Oh! I am a divorcee” she said.
I was slightly embarrassed for I thought that I may have intruded into a topic she would rather not discuss. But she continued without the least bit of annoyance.
“It happened a long time ago, nearly twelve years now. Looking back now I am not sorry that it happened.”
“I am sorry I really should not have asked you about your husband. These things are bound to touch a raw nerve and one does not want to remember such happenings in life.”
“Don’t bother, I don’t feel uncomfortable talking about my life.”
“But after all I am a stranger and this the first time we are meeting” I said.
“I would say the same things to anyone who asked me, for I have nothing to feel sorry about.”
I was not prepared for that sort of openness. Here was an individual who had been in a relationship, had come out of it stronger and with a purpose. She was not confused or in a search, as the young man had been. But I did trace a small element of bitterness in her voice, the way she said “I have nothing to feel sorry about”.
We continued our conversation and I found her a very intelligent and confident woman. I consciously avoided asking her anything connected with her personal life and by the time the train reached Chennai we had struck a rapport as there were many areas of common interest between us. When we reached she offered to drop me at my house as it was on her way. She took down my contact phone number and said that she will stay in touch.
It was perhaps after a month that I received a call “I hope you remember me – the woman in the train? Well why don’t you and your wife drop in at my place for dinner this Saturday?”
I said “Yes, it will be our pleasure. Thanks for the invitation.”
The eagerness in her voice I guessed was because she wanted to talk. Behind all that strength and confidence that seemed to define her personality, there was a lonely woman.